There was an earthquake this morning. It measured five point something on the Richter scale. It doesn't matter because I didn't even feel it.
I had my earthquake drill ready as well. I'd made a mental note to check it out a few hours before stepping on the plane for Nepal. The conversation in the taxi had taken a slightly awkward turn as someone mentioned that it had been almost universally accepted amongst international seismologists that the April/May earthquakes in Nepal were simply small warm ups to an enormous and very imminent panhimalayan quake that, by the sounds of it, would flatten the Earth.
In fairness to him, he did me a favour. I hadn't even considered the possibility of another earthquake while I was actually IN Nepal. That just wasn't on the cards. I was there to look at the effects of the last earthquake, not experience a new one.
So, having used up 44 of my 45 free minutes of airport wifi on absolutely nothing (really, nothing), I managed to squeeze out a webpage on earthquake drill. What did I learn? That everything I thought I knew, namely stand in a doorway, get outside, was wrong. Like, fifty years out of date wrong. As with so much in life, you're left wondering why you ever bother paying attention to pretty much anything at all. Everything we're told ends up being either wrong or exactly the opposite, then eventually wrong - red meat is now definitely (definitely) as carcinogenic as smoking, fat is actually good for you, and the new silent killer is inactivity.
Well, a week on the sofa sounds like a pretty reasonable way to go compared to being crushed by three floors of concrete. They're certainly nothing silent about them. (Earthquake Advice #1: If you're in bed, stay in bed).
As I walk through the tight little rumble-jumble alleys of central Kathmandu, the lights are out and the prospect of an earthquake now is a little unnerving. Large beams crisscross the streets, supporting the semi-collapsed buildings on either side. I can touch both sides of some of these streets with my the tips of my outstretched hands so there's very little room to avoid falling debris should the hosues start shaking it down on me. (Earthquake Advice #2: Most of the injuries suffered in an earthquake are from falling items and smashed glass). The juvenile game of "What if?" leaps back into my consciousness as I try to consider every eventuality. I walk past a sketchy two-metre-high wall. It's bulging in the middle. Two metres to my right is a chaotic moving mass of traffic that would most likely veer catastrophically out of control as the road crumbled beneath. There is literally nowhere to go should the wall come a-tumbling down. (Earthquake Advice #3: Don't bother running. It's likely you won't be able to).
I think back to an earlier conversation with two young Kathmandu residents. The earthquake that killed over 9,000 people and reduced almost entire towns to rubble lasted a full minute. What? It takes me longer to work out which way round my shoes are in the morning.
I walk on.
And in fact, that is what I see most people doing - simply getting on with life. Yes, they spent two months sleeping in the streets for fear of more aftershocks. Yes, they know another quake is likely. But they're really more concerned about the current fuel crisis, a result of dodgy politics, and where they will find enough fuel to heat their homes and cook their food as winter creeps in.
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